The Fulfillment of the Tabernacle and the Offerings in the Writings of John, by Witness Lee

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Verse 19 indicates that on the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the Lord’s disciples were gathered together. This gathering of the disciples on the day of the Lord’s resurrection signifies the Lord’s brothers meeting as His church. This means that the first church meeting took place in the evening of the day of the Lord’s resurrection. When the disciples came together, they did not have the intention to meet as the church. They came together because of fear of the Jews. Then much to their surprise, “Jesus came and stood in the midst and said to them, Peace be to you.” By His appearing the Lord changed their gathering into a meeting of the church.

When some hear that the first church meeting took place in John 20:19, they may protest and say that this chapter does not indicate a church meeting. Regarding this, we need to consider Hebrews 2:11b and 12: “He is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying, I will declare Your name to My brothers; in the midst of the church I will sing hymns of praise unto You.” This indicates that after the Lord’s resurrection, He came to the disciples to declare the Father’s name concerning them as the church. If this did not take place in chapter twenty of the Gospel of John, when did it happen? In John 20 we have a record that on the day of His resurrection the Lord Jesus came back to His disciples and met with them. These disciples, who had become His brothers, had now become the church. Therefore, in verse 19 we have the first church meeting.

The disciples came together out of fear. We may say that at first the center of their gathering was this fear. But the center was changed to the resurrected Christ. When fear was the center of their gathering, they did not have any peace or joy. But when the Lord appeared in their midst, He said to them, “Peace be to you.” That was a timely word. On the one hand, the disciples were comforted; on the other hand, they were shocked by the Lord’s sudden appearance. The doors were shut where they were meeting. How, then, had the Lord come into the room? He came with a resurrected body into the room with the doors shut. Verse 20 says, “Having said this, He showed them both His hands and His side.” In this way, He was indicating to them that He was Jesus their Lord. “The disciples therefore rejoiced when they saw the Lord.”

According to verse 21, “Jesus said to them again, Peace be to you; as the Father has sent me, I also send you.” The Father sent the Son by being one with the Son and by coming with the Son. The Son sends His disciples in the same way the Father sent Him. This means that as the Father sent Him by being one with Him and coming with Him, so the Lord would send the disciples by being one with them and by going with them. He would be within the disciples as the Father is in the Son.

In order to send the disciples in this way, “He breathed into them and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit” (v. 22). The Holy Spirit is nothing less than the resurrected Lord Jesus Himself, because this Spirit is His breath. The Greek word for Spirit in this verse is pneuma, a word that is used for breath, spirit, and wind. Therefore, this verse can rightly be translated, “Receive the holy breath.” On the day of His resurrection, the Lord Jesus breathed Himself into His disciples as the holy breath.

The Christ who breathed Himself into the disciples is the life-giving Spirit. Some theologians use the term “the pneumatic Christ” to refer to the Christ who is the Spirit, the breath. In resurrection, Christ Himself is breath. Where was the Lord after He breathed Himself into His disciples? The answer is that He was now dwelling in them. Therefore, when He sent them, He could go with them by being in them. The principle is the same with us today. When we are sent by Him, He goes with us because He is in us.

(The Fulfillment of the Tabernacle and the Offerings in the Writings of John, Chapter 60, by Witness Lee)